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Another spot of bother

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Robbo Robson | 14:25 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

Brilliant game at Goodison on Sunday... concluded with another terrible penalty kick. It was a weekend for spot-kick blunders and given that Lampard and Defoe were two of the culprits you couldn't help fast-forwarding to a potential last 16 World Cup shoot-out against the average-but-you-can-never-rule-'em-out Germans.

Given's save at Eastlands looks like having more bearing on the destination of the title. Citeh were impressive without looking like they can really bust a hole in the top four. Yet.

It was gutsy stuff and it was noticeable that despite the result Ancelotti was utterly unfazed by Sparky's technical area shenanigans. Sometimes Hughes stomps about like Yosemite Sam locked in a box, but a less petty man than Wenger seems to be able to rise above it.

The blue half of Manchester can be pleased, I suppose, but the neutral couldn't help watching that contest as less of a football match and more of a comparison in bank balances. You feel City will be winning that one, too.
Carlos Tevez celebrates with RobinhoCarlos Tevez celebrates with Robinho
Of course had Lamps tucked away the pen then we'd be all writing how Hughes's team have blown more leads than a hyped-up Pete Townshend. There's a case for saying that if the two sides swapped keepers Chelsea would have walked it. Certainly Cech commanded his penalty box with all the authority of a mouse in charge of a cattery.

I've never really understood the hard-and-low-and-down-the-middle penalty-kick. Surely the keeper's always going to have a chance with his feet if you wham it there? It doesn't help when you top it like a grandma on a golfing range either.

Becks' redemptive strike against Argentina in 2002 was one of the worst penalties ever taken. Except it went in - so who gives a flying fig?

I've had to take two penalty-kicks in my life - meaningful ones that is. One of them was side-footed comfortably into the corner of the keeper's elbow and the other smacked the goalie in the face and deflected off the bar and away to safety.

There were mitigating factors of course. In the first case, the penalty area was so claggy and me mam had bought me new boots that, for the sake of her domestic economy, were a couple of sizes too big. ("You'll grow into 'em'," she explained).

So while the ball rolled feebly up to the grateful keeper - he had time to put in an extra mouthful at his useless defenders before he picked it up - the shiny new Patrick footie boot with luminous green trim finished up in the top corner.

In the second case, my team-mates weren't exactly queueing up like a golf superstar's alleged mistresses, but the miss was more down to me being incensed by the keeper's arrogance.

The bloke, lissom as an ox and graceful as a concrete pillar, was so convinced I'd bottle it that he only stopped me at the start of me run-up so he could light a fag. It may not have found the net, but at least my Julian Dicksesque blunderbuss knocked the B&H clean out of his gob.

I never had a game-plan, you see. They say pick a side and don't be distracted. That statement applies perfectly to the act of supporting a football team. But faced with 12 yards of what amounts to a swamp between you and a fat smoker with a tank-top pulled over his green jersey, your mind goes a bit doolally.

I recall the wincing frailty of Lampard and Gerrard in the last World Cup as they blundered. That Brazilian with a name like an ice-lolly - Fabiano? - took a shocker in the recent friendly. (There are certain words that have come into the English language from football and I swear no one 'ballooned' anything until the invention of the penalty-kick. Just as no one ever 'bombed on' or 'gave it the eyebrows at the front stick').

There's a tendency for dead-ball specialists these days to approach the ball with a very straight run-up, rather than coming from the side. They open the foot up at the last moment and steer it in whichever direction suits them. Drogba, for example, is masterful at it. And that pensioner at Burnley, Alexander, has a similar approach.

The keepers are left as dumbfounded as a snake with a glove puppet. I've tried it meself but I don't think these weary bones are able to do anything but toe-poke the bloody thing in a straight line.
David Beckham and friends at the World Cup launch David Beckham and friends at the World Cup launch
But as I say all these missed penalties just make me fret about 2010, despite England's draw being about as favourable as it could have been without Mr Beckham just asking if he could choose them himself.

(And the way his charm offensive was going I wouldn't have put it past Fifa giving him the opportunity. I tell you, he might not have as much to offer on the playing side but you could happily send the man on a week-long safari and the numpty press pack'd be out there with him while his team-mates got on with the job of preparing for a game of footie. Oh, and working on their 'My World Cup' diaries.)

But please, Lord, all I want for Christmas is the guarantee that we won't have to sit through another load of tears and torment as five more hopeless Herberts ping the fans behind the goal and trudge tamely out of Africa. It was feeble enough in the heat of 2002 but at least it wasn't traumatic.

Still let's not get ahead of ourselves, eh? One game at a time, 90 minutes on the day, injuries permitting (and I like Roy Hodgson but surely it's going to take a flu epidemic of unforeseen proportions before Bobby Zamora gets his call-up? And if you're reading this, Bob, we can all lip-read, son.)

Yes there's a lot of football to play before that shoo-in of a semi-final against Brazil. And the inevitable victory against Spain in the final. Shut up, you Ebeneezers, and let a man dream.


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